Monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland – Brothers of Christian Instruction

Article

Educational. Under Simple Vows. Founded in 1817.

There are several Congregations of this name which were founded in France for educational purposes at the beginning of the last century. One has been incorporated with the Little Brothers of Mary; one, usually called the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, has the mother-house at Paradis (Haute-Loire); one, founded by Blessed Louis Grignon de Montfort is called after Saint Gabriel and the largest and best-known Congregation is that of Jean de la Mennais, founded by the Abbé of that name at Ploermel in Brittany.

The Abbé Jean de la Mennais foresaw that the great question of the nineteenth century would be the education of the masses, and wished to provide for Brittany, in particular, Christian teachers who should be able to give what instruction was required in all kinds of schools, from the large boarding-schools of the town to the poor schools in country places. He desired to complete the work of Saint John B. de la Salle, the founder of the Brothers of Christian Schools, who are not allowed to go out alone or less than three, and are bound by their rule to live in community, whereas in many villages one Brother only is sufficient to direct a school.

Jean Marie de la Mennais was brother to the celebrated writer of that name, and was born at Saint Malo in 1780. The nucleus of his Congregation, which in 1880 numbered 1,559 members, was three young Bretons who could scarcely speak a few words of French, and at that time there were not more than six or seven schools in Brittany where free education was given to the children of the poor, and those few were in the towns. The plan of the Abbé was that the Brother who directed the school should be paid 480 francs a year, and be boarded by the cur6 of the parish; but the first great difficulty was to find a place large enough to hold the children in villages and towns where no schools existed. In the beginning the school was held in some building attached to the presbytery, sometimes in the parlour, and one Brother established his school in his bedroom, and put his bed in an attic. Nothing daunted the zeal of the new Congregation, which has become a very important one. The holy founder then began to build, and in 1844 the Institute counted in Brittany 180 schools and 300 Brothers.

At the end of 1837, the Minister of Marine asked the Institute to take charge of the primary schools he desired to found in the French colonies, and the members consented, though they lost many Brothers through the climate, but their schools flourished. Besides their establishments, which in 1880 numbered 460, in France, they have schools in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Senegal, and Guiana.

MLA Citation

  • Francesca M Steele. “Brothers of Christian Instruction”. Monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland, 1903. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 December 2018. Web. 13 December 2018. <>